Perry Trims Iowa Staff as Super PAC Ramps Up

A super PAC supporting Rick Perry for president is expanding its ranks in Iowa, coming to the aid of the former governor's cash-strapped campaign.

Former Gov. Rick Perry speaks to an audience of veterans and supporters at a fundraiser for the Puppy Jake Foundation in Iowa, on June 6, 2015.
Former Gov. Rick Perry speaks to an audience of veterans and supporters at a fundraiser for the Puppy Jake Foundation in Iowa, on June 6, 2015.  Rebecca MIller

*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout. 

Rick Perry's presidential campaign has trimmed its Iowa ranks to just one paid staffer, an aide said Monday, as a super PAC backing the former Texas governor officially ramped up its operation in the key early voting state.

Perry's Hawkeye State team, which once had 10 paid staffers, now has two members: Jamie Johnson, who is getting paid to lead the campaign's Iowa efforts, and Robert Haus, who is working on a volunteer basis as a top adviser. The shakeup capped weeks of uncertainty following the campaign's decision to stop paying staffers amid fundraising struggles.  

Among those cut from Perry's Iowa team was Karen Fesler, a prominent conservative activist who was state co-chair with Sam Clovis. Clovis jumped ship last week to the campaign of real estate mogul Donald Trump, while Fesler began working Monday for Rick Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania whom she backed in the last presidential election. 

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Johnson said the Iowa operation has three goals: taking stock of fundraising, identifying pro-Perry caucusgoers and getting him "in front of as many Iowans as possible." Perry is expected to return to the state in September. 

As word got out Monday that the campaign was scaling back its Iowa staff, the Opportunity and Freedom PAC — the main super PAC supporting Perry — announced it had hired Marshall Critchfield as its Iowa state director and Beth Hamilton as his deputy. Critchfield is chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party, a position he is leaving to join the super PAC. Hamilton is a Republican operative from Jackson, Miss., home of Austin Barbour, senior adviser to the Opportunity and Freedom PAC. 

"We are in this race for the long haul, and thanks to the support of our donors we have the resources to run a state-of-the-art grassroots effort in Iowa, and that is what Marshall and Beth have been hired to do," said Jordan Russell, a spokesman for the super PAC. 

The group has been expanding its footprint in first-test Iowa since Perry's campaign disclosed raising only $1 million in its first month. When the campaign stopped paying staff earlier this month, the super PAC promised to pick up the slack in Iowa, which Perry allies see as critical to his underdog bid for the White House. 

Last week, Barbour said the super PAC was recruiting dozens of field staffers and expected to be "fully operational" on Tuesday. It has already spent close to $1 million on TV advertising in the state and plans to return to the airwaves after Labor Day. 

The Des Moines Register first reported Perry's campaign in Iowa was down to one paid staffer.

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